Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

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University of California Press, Apr 14, 2007 - Nature - 295 pages
59 Reviews
Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.
 

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Review: Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

User Review  - Goodreads

Worth reading selectively. Too broad in scope towards the beginning, with large discussions of geologic history and evolution. The latter half of the book offers interesting sociological insights on the interplay between economic and environmental pressures. Read full review

Review: Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

User Review  - Goodreads

Some chapters were better than others - but really interesting. Read full review

Contents

2 SKIN OF THE EARTH
9
3 RIVERS OF LIFE
27
4 GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES
49
5 LET THEM EAT COLONIES
83
6 WESTWARD HOE
115
7 DUST BLOW
145
8 DIRTY BUSINESS
179
9 ISLANDS IN TIME
217
10 LIFE SPAN OF CIVILIZATIONS
233
NOTES
247
BIBLIOGRAPHY
251
INDEX
271
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, is author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.

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